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For Lumads displaced by the quakes, will there still be a village to return to?

November 9, 2019

Bagobo Tagabawa Lumads (Indigenous Peoples) living in the hinterland villages here are among thousands of residents who have evacuated to the town center following a series of four above-magnitude-6 earthquakes between October 16 and 31. When they will return to their villages, no one can say for now. When they do go back, repairing their damaged houses or building new ones to replace those that collapsed, will take time. For a still undetermined number of Lumads, however, there may be no home and no village to return to. Barangay Luayon, whose residents are predominantly Bagobo Tagabawa,  is one of four villages that have been declared as “no build zones” among Makilala’s 38 barangays. Kagawad Cornelio Damali, Indigenous Peoples (IP) Mandatory Representative, said 84% of 647 households of barangay Luayon, are Lumads (IPs). The entire village has been dispersed to various evacuation centers since the Magnitude 6.5 quake struck on Thursday, October 31. Damali said they average five “gyera” (wars) a year between government forces and the new Peoples Army (NPA) but “dili mi maapektahan sa gyera” (we’re not affected by the wars). He meant they have not evacuated because of the “gyera.” But the series of earthquakes forced them out of their homes and villages “kay wala na miy puluy-anan. Hugmak na tanan (because we have no more homes to return to. All have collapsed) “Walay balay nabilin sa Luayon. Pati among barangay hall nga lig-on kaaayo naguba.  Eskwelahan -- elementary high school daycare,  hurot. Hugmak. (No house stands in Luayon. Even our barangay hall which is a strong structure, was destroyed.  The elementary, high school and day care schools, too),  the Kagawad, also referred to as Datu and Pastor, said. Four earthquakes above Magnitude 6 struck the area between October 16 and 31: Magnitude 6.3 on October 16, Magnitudes 6.6 and 6.1 on October 29 and Magnitude 6.5 on October 31. A resident, Patricio Lumayon, was hit by “nagalupad na mga bato” (flying rocks) while tapping rubber when the Magnitude 6.6  struck on October 29.  He was rushed to the hospital in the poblacion but died in the evening. “Dili na mi pabalikon sa Luayon” The residents of Luayon did not only lose their homes, they also lost their main source of livelihood: rubber tapping, and have just been told they have lost their village, too Barangays Luayon, Bato, Buhay and Cabilao  have been declared no-build zones, their residents evacuated to the poblacion. “Mao na ingon sa Phivolcs. Dili na mi pabalikon sa Luayon” (That’s what the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said.  We cannot return to Luayon),  Damali explained. He said their mayor told them government will relocate Luayon’s 647 households, more than 500 of that Lumads. Damali said they would negotiate to be allowed to still farm in Luayon even if they would be relocated elsewhere, explaining that’s where their lands are. He describes the land ownership in Luayon as fair. “Walay adunahan, walay pobre. Halos tanan naay yuta” (No rich, no poor. Almost all have lands). The lands are planted mostly to rubber. As of Tuesday, November 5, Damali said, the road to Luayon was still inaccessible. The only way to reach the place aside from hiking is on motorcycle. Damali said he asked Makilala Mayor Armando Quibod  a question that has not been answered: if, for example they have are able to acquire five to 10 hectares of land in Barangay Malasila for a relocation site, “matawag pa ba nga Barangay Luayon” (can you still call it Luayon)? Luayon comes from word “Luay,” a kind of grass that that grows in their village. But will they still call their village Luayon if Luay does not grow in their relocation site, MindaNews asked. “Magkambyo na mig pangalan” (We will change our name), he said. Sheryl Orbita, municipal administrator of Makilala told MindaNews that the local government is looking for relocation for residents of  the villages declared ‘no build zones.’ She said they have several options to choose from but they will have these checked by the Phivolcs and the Mines and Geo-sciences Bureau. In the areas declared as “no-build zones,” Orbita said Phivolcs informed them farming can still be done at daytime but not when it rains.  Living there,, however, will not be allowed. Waiting for verdict At the Makilala Central Elementary School, Datu Bienvenido Makalos told MindaNews that all households in Barangay Batasan at the foothills of Mt. Apo had fled their villages starting Tuesday, October 29, when the magnitude 6.6 and 6.1 quakes struck. Of this number, around 200 households or about 1,000 individuals are Bagobo Tagabawa, but they have been dispersed to three areas – in Kisante, Flortam and the school grounds where around 60 families have pitched tents. Datu Makalos said they fled their village after the Magnitudes 6.6 and 61. quakes on Tuesday, October 29, because they were afraid a lake in their ancestral domain might give way when another strong quake happens. Another quake did happen two days later, on October 31, at Magnitude 6.5. That quake killed their barangay captain when a beam in the barangay hall fell on him. He said they will wait for the government to declare their area safe or unsafe for return. But what he wants to know is, if the verdict is it is unsafe, “asa dapit ang among relocation area” (where will our relocation area be?) Getting displaced does not mean only physically but also culturally. Up in the mountains, Makalos said, is their ancestral domain. “Mas dako ang territory” (the territory is bigger). In the evacuation center and in the relocation area, if they will be relocated, the area is small. But Makalos said that no matter the difficulties and the limitations, they will continue observing their cultural practices “kay dili pwede makalimtan ang atong pagka-Lumad” (because we shouldn’t forget our being Lumad). Help, donations are not endless At the evacuation camp at the Makilala Institute of Science and Technology in Barangay Concepcion, Myrna Linao, IP Mandatory Representative of Barangay Buhay told MindaNews on Friday that 135 Bagobo Tagabawa families have sought temporary shelter here while two other families are staying with relatives in Kidapawan. Like Barangay Luayon, Barangay Buhay is one of the four villages declared “no build zone” but Linao said it is not clear to them as yet. But she adds that if they are to be relocated, relocation should be done immediately so they can settle down and start anew. She also wants an investigation on the cause of the frequent earthquakes. If it were a natural cause, Linao said they would readily accept that that is God’s will but if the cause is man-made, then the perpetrators should be punished.. She said Buhay, since time immemorial, has been their ancestral domain and their ancestors had declared that place safe. “Bisan tabunan pa mig daghang goods karon,  ang amo gyud ginahangdum makabalik mi sa among yutang natawhan. Mao gyud na among panawagan” (Even if you cover all of us with relief goods now, what we really want is to return to our ancestral domain. That is our call), she said. Until when, she asked, will government and other donors give them help? When the giving stops, “asa mi padulong ug asa mi sa among inadlawng panginabuhian” (where will we go and what will happen to our source of daily livelihood?), Linao asked, adding “among panginabuhian naa man gyud sa ancestral domain namo” (our livelihood is in our ancestral domain). Linao acknowledges that donations are not endless but “sariling paningkamot” (striving on their own) to survive is a never-ending struggle.    36.8%   The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) North Cotabato office’s report on “partial data” from the field as of  November 7 showed the total number of IP families affected by the quakes at 11,792 households, with Makilala having the most number at 5,129, followed by Kidapawan City at 3,450, Magpet at 1,843 and Tulunan at 1,370. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council’s (NDRRMC) Situation Report 15 as of 6 a.m. on November 7 said that in North Cotabato, a total of  31,969 families or 159,845 individuals in 138 barangays were affected by the quakes. The NCIP’s partial data of 11,792 affected IP households represent 36.8% of the 31,969 affected in the NDRRMC data on North Cotabato.  Joey Bogay, Acting NCIP Provincial Director told MindaNews the NCIP is still consolidating data on the number of affected IP families who are staying inside evacuation centers or are being served outside evacuation centers.

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In Tulunan, back to school on Monday except for areas badly damaged by quakes

November 9, 2019

 It’s back to school for elementary and high school students here on Monday, November 11, 13 days after it was suspended due to the Magnitude 6.6 quake at 9:04 a.m. on October 29 that was followed by a  6.1 an hour later and a 6.5 two days later. But classes remain suspended in five of 32 elementary schools and one of six high schools here, Peter Ortizo, focal persons of the Local School Board (LSB) told MindaNews on Friday, under a parabolic tent near the municipal hall that serves as their temporary office while the town hall’s structural integrity is given the nod of building officials. Ortizo said those whose classes are still suspended next week are Magbok Elementary School. Paraiso Elementary School, Daig Elementary School, New Caridad Elementary School, and Bituan Elementary School and New Caridad High School.  These are the schools severely damaged, and near the epicenters of the four above-Magnitude 6 quakes: 6.3 on October 16, 6.6 and 6.1 on October 29 and 6.5 on October 31. Temporary learning shelters will be provided to schools with classrooms that have been damaged and cannot be used. Ortizo said they will provide GI sheets and nails but will also give parabolic tents as they did in Daig which was given four. Ortizo said they have yet to get a clear advisory from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) on whether or not these areas where the severely damaged schools located are still safe “but meantime wala pang official na declaration ang Phivolcs …  we should move on and we should let our students go back to school until such time na meron silang official na advisor.” Prior to Monday’s school opening, heads of all 39 public elementary and high schools in Tulunan and all the teachers in the severely damaged villages of Daig, Paraiso, New Caridad and Magbok, are undergoing a stress debriefing and training on Pscyhosocial First Aid on November 9 and 10 at the Tulunan National High School mini theatre. The weekend activity is conducted by the Ateneo de Davao University’s Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services or COPERS.

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Rights defender still missing; military denies involvement

November 9, 2019

Karapatan Southern Mindanao has accused the military of having a hand in the disappearance of  Suazo, its former secretary-general who was last seen in Panabo City on November 2, exactly a week ago. But Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) spokesperson Lt. Col. Ezra L. Balagtey challenged Karapatan to show proof and file a complaint in court. In a statement, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Jay Apiag said they believe the military is behind the “abduction” of  Suazo, the group’s secretary general from 2011 to 2016, for her work as a human rights defender. Apiag said Suazo’s disappearance has something to do with “intensifying crackdown against activists and legitimate people's organizations.” During her five-year stint at Karapatan, Suazo faced multiple threats and malicious accusations from the military and continued to be a target even if she had left the group, according to Apiag. “If her past experiences of continuous harassment are indicative of anything, it is that Honey May is still facing reprisal for her work as a human rights defender," Apiag said. Apiag said Armed Forces of the Philippines Deputy Chief of Staff for Civil Military Operations Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade linked Suazo to the communist movement after she assisted the family of New People’s Army leader Zaldy Cañete to visit him in the hospital after sustaining injuries in a clash with the state forces. Apiag said Suazo's photograph and name was “viciously appended in the posters” that were displayed in the cities of Butuan and Surigao in April this year, “accusing her as a terrorist.” He said Suazo was “performing a mandate of a human rights advocacy institution to assist wounded combatants who are accorded protection and right to visitation of families as mandated under the International Humanitarian Law of which the Philippine government is a signatory.” "Regardless of what the military is trying to insinuate, assisting families of combatants, including hors de combat, is not illegal or condemnable. They can double check with the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) provisions or go to the database and briefers provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross if they need a refresher, " he added. According to Apiag, Suazo and her partner Anelo Pabuaya visited their relative’s grave on All Soul’s Day in Tagum City and thereafter visited their friend’s house in Barangay New Site Gredu in Panabo City. At around 3 p.m. on same day, Suazo went ahead of her partner and decided to return home to Davao City alone. He said Suazo called her partner to pick her up at the Panabo City Hall after realizing she did not have enough money for the bus ride “After a while, Suazo called Pabuaya again, saying she was tailed by a white pick-up truck. She asked Pabuaya to immediately come and fetch her.  Pabuaya advised her to go to the nearest police station. When Pabuaya went to the station, he did not find Suazo. He tried to contact her mobile phone numbers but all were out of reach,” he said.

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NPA Still Recruits Minors as Combatants in Regions 10 and Caraga

November 9, 2019

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City – In the midst of the persistent recruitment by the CPP-NPA terrorist (CNTs), the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division, Philippine Army condemns the CNTs leadership for blatant violations of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) for recruiting minors as combatants and militia ng bayan members in Regions 10 and Caraga. Rex Antonio alyas Kent, 19 years old, NPA combatant who was wounded and rescued by the government troops during the encounter of 29IB at the hinterlands of Brgy San Isidro, Santiago, Agusan del Norte last November 2, 2019 revealed that he was recruited by the CNTs when he was still 17 years old. While, Alyas Bradex, 23 years old, a former rebel from the province of Bukidnon who surrendered last 2018 confirmed that recruitment of minors by the CNTs is rampant and he can attest to it. “I am only 12yrs old when the NPA used me as courier and I became a full time NPA combatant at the age of 16yrs old,” Bradex added The revelation of the two former rebels was confirmed by Sandara Monsalao Mandahinog alyas Karla, 17 years old, a squad medic of NPA who surrendered last March 23, 2019 in 23IB at Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. “I was recruited and force to join the NPA at age of 14 years old which made my life miserable. MGen Franco Nemesio Gacal, the Commander of the 4th ID, said “The presence of NPA child warriors is very alarming and everybody must take urgent action to stop the recruitment of our school children. It is a clear violation of rule 136 of the IHL which prohibits recruitment of minors by any armed groups involved in hostilities. I urge everyone specially the parents to take care of your children and together let us protect their future, our future generation,” Gacal added. “We can prevent this recruitment of minors and totally end the local communist armed conflict through our convergence of efforts. Let us give our full support to EO 70 the Whole-of-Nation Approach to end insurgency problem in Regions 10 and Caraga”, Gacal ended

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Marawi IDPs in Matungao town undergo skills training

November 9, 2019

MATUNGAO, Lanao del Norte, Nov. 8 (PIA) —- Ninety-seven internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City who are currently sheltered in Bakwit Village of Barangay Pangi here underwent skills training facilitated by Sumpay Mindanao.   Sumpay Mindanao in partnership with St. Laurence Institute of Technology in Iligan CIty provided trainings on Bread and Pastry Production NCII, Cookery NCII, Dressmaking NCII, and Electrical Installation and Maintenance NCII to the IDPs starting in July 2019.   Sumpay Mindanao Project Coordinator Joel O. Cuabo reminded the graduates to utilize their skills to help them recover from the losses wrought by Marawi siege.   “Iyong natutunan nila sa training, huwag isantabi. Gamitin ito para makatulong sa kanilang hanapbuhay,” said Cuabo.   (They should not put aside what they have learned from the training. They should utilize it to help them eke out a living.)   Promoting convergence, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) committed ITSELF to provide livelihood starter kits to the IDP-graduates.   Criste Perfecto of DOLE-Lanao del Norte explained that the starter kits, which will be distributed on Nov. 13, “are not for sale and the IDPs are not allowed to sell these as well.”   To ensure that the starter kits will not be sold, the Sumpay Mindanao and Paglingkawas (Incentivizing Compliance Program) will sign an agreement with the beneficiaries.   The graduates are part of the150 beneficiaries of the project dubbed “Reintegration Support to the Internally Displaced by the Marawi Conflict in the Municipalities of Saguiaran and Piagapo, Lanao del Sur and Iligan City, Philippines” by Sumpay Mindanao, Inc. and supported by Caritas Germany.    The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) also committed itself to provide entrepreneurial training to the IDPs to enhance and develop their products.   DTI - Iligan, however, will also give training to enhance and develop their products and/or businesses.    After graduation, the completers have undergone a  planning workshop to plot their possible livelihood activities which will be implemented for two years.   Sumpay Mindanao will work closely with the graduates, as it provides more trainings, coaching, and linking with other stakeholders for access to capital and other services. (LEAntonio/PIA ICCC, Photos from Sumpay Mindanao)  

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50 ex-rebels get Php2.7 M aid under E-CLIP

November 9, 2019

IMPASUGONG, Bukidnon, Nov. 8 - Fifty former rebels who surrendered to the 8th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Division, Philippine Army received assistance from the government amounting to Php2,754,800 under the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program or E-CLIP. The 50 were among the 79 FRs who received E-CLIP assistance on Friday, November 8, inside Camp Osito Bahian in Impalambong, Malaybalay City. The awarding was graced by representatives from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Region 10, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Field Office 10, Bukidnon Provincial Police, and Philippine Army who formally welcomed the former rebels to renew their lives. Couple Dival and Jenecel who brought their M16 Rifles and received assistance worth Php400,000 thanked the government for giving them a chance to live a normal life. They said they are very fortunate for being among the E-CLIP recipients as the assistance will help them have a fresh start together with their two children.  E-CLIP is one of the flagship programs of the Duterte administration that seek to address social healing and national unity towards the higher objective of having a just and lasting peace. It aims to facilitate the mainstreaming of former New People's Army (NPA) rebels and Militia ng Bayan as productive citizens in the respective localities. Ms. Yvette Tolentino-Sunga, DILG-10 Assistant Regional Director called on the recipients to give importance to the cash assistance they have received.  “Please use your money wisely. That is not a payment for your surrender but assistance from the government to help you start a new life. The E-CLIP is not going to be forever,” she said. Aside from the cash assistance, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) also provided skills training to prepare them to start a life outside the armed communities. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Illana, commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Battalion said the unit is still open to accept and help NPA members of the Sub-regional Committee 1 and 2 of the North Central Mindanao Regional Command who want to surrender and avail of the ECLIP. (8th IB/PA)

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